RGB verses CMYK Colours

To colour print your digital files, you must supply the graphics and image in the correct colour mode. Most of the software programmes allow you to work with RGB colour mode or CMYK colour. RGB colours or Red-Green-Blue colours are known as the primary colours of the light. This colour combination can be seen on your tv or computer monitors. The digital cameras and scanners also produce images with Red-Green-Blue colour combinations. Red-Green-Blue colour mode should be in use when taking photos that need to be seen on the monitor, emails or CD.

All colours of the light spectrum are created from the primary colours, but monitors can display only limited colour range from the visible spectrum. Light is emitted by the monitor, and the printing ink recognises only specific wavelength of colours. All three primary colours are combined to create white. If all three primary colours are absent, the light will show as black. By combining a variety of intensities of RGB colours, each combination produces different colours. The monitor of a tv or a computer is made of small units known as pixels. Each pixel contains three units of light, and each unit represents red, green and blue.

You can not actually see the individual pixels with the naked eye because they are so tiny. But every pixel is made by the application of proper values of RGB, as without the proper values of the colour units, you cannot see any image on the monitor. The values of RGB colours are calculated mainly by three methods. The first method is to set them using different numeric values. The numeric values used for this purpose are the values from 0 to 255, and this is the superior method of the three.

The second method is by using hexadecimal notations. This method is mainly used for HTML and other languages of the computer. These notations follow a logical pattern. The hexadecimal notation uses six characters, with these characters being divided into three. The first pair represents the red, the second pair green and the third pair as blue. Each pair is represented by a hexadecimal number (0-9) and the letters (A-F). The third method is the percentage in which a certain percentage represents each colour. The programme translates these percentages into suitable values ranges from 0-255.

CMYK colours or Cyan-Magenta-Yellow colours are subtractive colours, whereas RGB colours are additive colours. Additive colours refer to light, whereas subtractive colours refer to inks, paint or pigment. CMYK mode is used for printing as all kind of printers are using subtractive colours to result in different colours. When three additive colours are combined, the combination will produce white colour. But when three subtractive colours are combined, the combination produces black. This difference means there is a great diversity between the resulting print and the monitor display. Additive colour throws light from the monitor, and if more light is projected from an independent pixel, it will be closer to the pure light. In the case of printer inks, they absorb light and reflects only the wavelengths of light that is associated with the colour of the ink.

The inks of the printer take away the non-essential wavelengths from the light that falls on the ink. The remaining light will return to the eye, providing the impression of a variety of colours. If you are mixing more colours, then more light will be absorbed by the ink and a lesser amount of light will be reflected to the eye, and that results in darker colour. Black ink produced by the CMYK colours isn’t a strong black. So you will need to add black ink to produce the best results for receiving true black. If you would like to have a darker tone of any colour, you have to add black in CMYK mode.

And how about the lighter shade of colours? Because white ink cannot be created using CMYK colours, you need to work with the hypothesis that you are printing colour onto white paper. Because tiny dots of ink are used to print images the inks are used in a lower percentage to produce lighter shades so that more white is seen among the dots. The values of CMYK colours are calculated using four different percentages. The values of each percentage should be between 0 and 100 so that the total percentage of the ink values can be up to 400%. But when the total percentage reaches 400%, the ink takes more time to dry. And so, the total percentage of ink shouldn’t be more than 300% in CMYK mode.

Both the colour modes have limitations. The images developed using RGB mode cannot be converted smoothly into CMYK mode due to the brightness of RGB colours. Similarly, CMYK colours can not be converted into RGB mode because the sharp look of RGB colours is missing in CMYK mode online. This is the reason why RGB colours are used in monitors and CMYK colours are used in printers.

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